Pope willing to set up study into possibility of women deacons

Deacons do not celebrate the Mass. They do preach at Mass, perform baptisms, conduct Christian burial services and witness marriages.

The sisters applauded when the pope suggested such priests pay local women in need of a job and let the sisters teach, care for the poor, heal the sick.

Father Lombardi described the encounter between the Pope and the female religious as a "beautiful conversation" that was very "encouraging" about women and in particular about consecrated women in the life of the Church, including their role in important positions within the dicasteries where ordination is not implied. They were restored in the 1960s as part of the Vatican II reforms, but only for men. Pope Francis said yesterday he would set up a commission to study the possibility of women entering the Catholic clergy, in his latest potentially historic opening on a vexed issue for the Church.

He said: "It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement", he said, according to various reports of the off-the-cuff exchange.

That's church-speak for: OK, I'll do it.

By contrast, Phyllis Zagano, a prominent advocate of women deacons, told the National Catholic Reporter: "The fact of the matter is, the diaconate is not the priesthood".

"I can't underscore enough how groundbreaking this is for the church", said the Rev. James Bretzke, a Jesuit theologian and papal scholar at Boston College.

She said about 30,000 women served in US parishes as "lay ecclesial ministers", taking on many pastoral and administrative functions.

Or the commission could say there is no justification for establishing the office of deaconess.

"Pope Francis is indeed a pope of many surprises", he said. Wcela wrote a magazine article in 2012 endorsing the idea.

Bridget Mary Meehan was excommunicated from the Catholic Church at the same time she became an ordained priest in 2009.

"We'll get to hear women's voices in places where they may not have been previously heard", she said.

"It strikes me as kind of the priesthood lite". "Francis has said that for these women there could be a benediction but not a consecration". "We live in a society where the difference between men and women is being denied on a lot of fronts".

Pope Francis was instrumental in ending that investigation a year ago, and now seems to be trying to heal those wounds, Holquin said.

The Vatican press office declined to comment, saying they are awaiting a full transcript of Francis' remarks. Pope Francis said Thursday he is willing... "The sort of discussion the Pope is calling for is precisely what Archbishop Hunthausen thought was going to happen when he chose to suspend the local deacon formation program". "But having a woman deacon proclaiming the gospel in St. Peter's Square - what would that say to the world?"

"The diaconate is a rank of holy orders... it is obvious that granting it to women may be seen as a major risk by those who do not want women priests."

"When you deal with the church, you're dealing with God's children, and so to incorporate and have an open heart and a mind to bring women into more of a leadership role in the church, you're gonna find that people are gonna warm more to the church", Walker said. A 2014 Pew Research Center study showed 54 percent of Catholics nationwide are women.

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